Whether you’re outdoorsy or indoorsy, employee or entrepreneur, there are plenty of reasons to make the Peninsula your permanent home or weekend hangout.
When you think about the Peninsula, the first thing that comes to mind is probably an image of slow-paced tourists in tri-corner hats. Even locals comment that the Peninsula and the Southside are worlds apart, and the bridges that connect them are punishment to cross. Although Norfolk and Virginia Beach get a ton of deserved shine, the Peninsula is becoming an amazing place to live, work and play. Below are just a few of the unbelievable sights and indescribable feelings that make the Peninsula a whole new world for twentysomethings in Hampton Roads:
1. Sunbathe in the shadow of history: The Peninsula’s beaches offer everything from quieter sands with a historic flair to lively hangouts for young active types. Yorktown Beach and Huntington Beach are both sites of pivotal moments in history, and the cities take particular care to preserve the region’s rich heritage. Even still, both beaches offer exquisite settings to relax in the sand, discreetly enjoy a beer and watch fireworks in the summer. If you’d prefer to enjoy your drinks proudly in the open, then Paradise Ocean Club provides a lit beach atmosphere. Located just inside of Fort Monroe (above), POC’s private beach has volleyball, corn hole boards and a full food and drink menu for the 21 and up crowd. Cabana boys will even run your group’s order to your plush and breezy cabana for closest thing to a Nikki Beach experience that Hampton Roads has to offer.
2. Forest bathe in a natural oasis: With over 8,000 acres of forested trails, hills and lakes, Newport News Park is not only the largest city-run park in Hampton Roads, it’s one of the largest municipal parks east of the Mississippi. 20 picnic shelters, 188 campsites, 30 miles of hiking trails, 10 miles of biking trails and two 18-hole golf courses offer the perfect set of amenities for campers, hikers, bikers, canoers, kayakers, kid parents, dog parents and anyone who enjoys a beautiful outdoor retreat.
3. Run the entire length of Newport News: From Boston to Miami to New York, one of the hallmarks of a great city is a great city marathon. With the recent inauguration of the One City Marathon, Hampton Roads can now add Newport News to that list. Participants in the weekend-long event race down the entire length of Newport News from the aforementioned Newport News Park to downtown Newport News. Along the way, runners jog through the city’s most beautiful neighborhood streets, traverse the wooded hills of Noland Trail and get a full taste of the city’s urban and natural beauty. The marathon is an exciting show of community spirit that proves that all of the unique districts of Newport News indeed comprise One (great) City.
4. Toast to hometown brewers: There are plenty of places to enjoy a local beer or wine in Hampton Roads. The Peninsula itself is home to three wineries, seven breweries and Ironclad Distillery, the only bourbon distillery in the region. (As an added bonus, the One City Marathon’s finish line is just steps from Ironclad.) Downtown Hampton boasts several bars —including the Peninsula location of the Norfolk haunt Taphouse (below)—with a generous selection of drinks on tap. To keep it all central, the Mariners’ Museum Craft Beer Festival showcases a terrific selection of local craft brew favorites at their early May celebration. With all of this activity, the Peninsula beer and wine scene is foaming over with potential to rival other hotbeds of craft brews in Hampton Roads.
5. See Williamsburg from 250 ft., then plummet straight down: There’s hardly anything to say about Busch Gardens Williamsburg that hasn’t already been posted on Yelp, Trip Advisor and the Travel Channel, but the urgency to get a seasons pass can never be understated. Nowhere else in Hampton Roads can you experience authentic food and wine from half a dozen countries and then hop on a free-falling thrill ride immediately after. Whether that makes sound gastrointestinal sense depends on the rider, but it’s a unique experience that is well worth the drive to Williamsburg. The Busch Gardens Food and Wine Festival offers wine varieties from all over the world and small plates that you will only be able to experience from late May through the end of June.
6. Start a business, already: Entrepreneurial activity is quickly becoming a defining feature of the Peninsula, by design. Many different features and people across the Peninsula are all working together to provide a cohesive set of advantages for local business-owners. To give your business a boost, the Peninsula Technology Incubator hosts a ten-week accelerator in the winter which offers bootcamp-style classes on everything from marketing to financial modeling. During the ten weeks, local industry experts help to propel your idea from a hobby to a hard-working company.
7. Incubate your ideas to success: To further encourage entrepreneurship, many great incubator programs have popped up to share business acumen and source funding opportunities for those with a great idea. Williamsburg’s Triangle Business Incubator is one great example, as is the Hampton University Business Incubator, and Peninsula Technology Incubator, which boasts the distinction of being among the top knowledge-based incubators in the world. In the fall, the entire pool of the Peninsula’s entrepreneurial resources gather to host Start!Peninsula. Past participants of Start!Peninsula have gone on to raise over $1 Million in funding and win awards like “Inc. Magazine’s Best Startup”and Tech Cocktail’s “Hottest Startup in the Nation.” Not bad for only three years running.
8. Support your business and our local economy with local talent: The Peninsula shines when it comes to talented graduates in technical and business-related fields. This means that the talent to help propel your venture is already here because the region invests in producing it. The startup I cofounded, FreePing, has benefitted greatly from this pool of talent. All of our hires in the past have come from local universities, and as we grow, we are committed to hiring high-caliber employees to our growing team from these schools. If you’re an ambitious twentysomething with an idea, you might find that the Peninsula is the perfect place to nurture your company to success.